LAKE FOREST – He’s not a person to shy away from issues that go beyond what happens on the gridiron, nor has he been afraid to associate the impact of real life on pro football.
So it’s easy to understand the answer that Akiem Hicks had on Monday when asked if he feels comfortable around Halas Hall after the Bears had a player test positive for COVID-19 for the first time in the regular season.
“I can’t imagine that too many people in our country right now are experiencing a level of comfort, and I don’t think that falls out of the realm of professional football,” said the defensive tackle, and in many ways, he’s right.
The concern over the virus continues across the country as cases have gone up and down since the pandemic began in March. It’s been especially rough as of late for the National Football League, which has seen cases pop up over the past two weeks.
It’s wreaked havoc on the schedule and presents the first major problems for the league with COVID-19 since training camps started in late July. The Bears joined that group of teams when practice squad offensive lineman Badara Traore tested positive for the virus just after the team’s Thursday night win over the Buccaneers.
It’s forced previously made plans into action and stirred emotions around Halas Hall as players wonder if there will be more cases in the coming days.
“It’s pretty scary,” said receiver Allen Robinson. “You just think back as far as who that player has been around and things like that because, as you saw, we’ve seen cases pop up through teams who haven’t been in the facility but continue to pop up and stuff like that.
“It’s scary, but all you can kinda do is keep your fingers crossed that this is the last and only person of it.”
Perhaps the Bears caught a bit of a break that the test came on a mini-bye for the Bears, since team headquarters was empty for the weekend after a Thursday night game. Priority one for Nagy, of course, was to check in on Traore, who he said on Monday is doing well after the positive test.
After that, Nagy met with the team on a Zoom meeting to inform them of what was going on while answering questions they might have on the situation.
“Because of the trickle-down effect of everything that happens, because of that, you have other players that are around or any close contacts, and that’s to try to save all that, you’ve just got to understand the next couple of days are going to be a little different,” said Nagy. “From the forefront, from the very beginning of the start of this season and really going back to the offseason we said ‘Listen, every day is going to be different and then how do we respond to that.’ So our communication has been really, really good from top, down.
“We have an app that we use for our team and we have a communication process to let everyone know what’s going on.”
For Monday, that was switching the practice format since the practice squad players were told to stay home. The team held a walk-through instead of a more intense practice that was scheduled before a day off on Tuesday.
Preparations for Sunday’s game against the Panthers will begin on Wednesday with those practice squad players likely back, according to Nagy, with further emphasis on the protocols that have been enforced since July.
“I think our biggest thing is to contain it, control our environment, and try not to have another case,” said Hicks. “It’s a tough time for everybody and even in our football world, we still deal with real world problems and real world issues and we’re doing out best to stay safe and continue to live our life and work and handle our profession.
“It’s a troubling time, it’s frustrating, it can be scary at times but all you can do is your best and continue to live.”
Just as the rest of America is doing as the pandemic continues on towards the end of the year.
See more on the Bears on this week’s Chicago Football Weekly with Jarrett Payton and Lauren Magiera at 6 PM on WGN-TV.